Tuesday, December 2, 2008

"All the News That's Fit to Neuter" Gives the Lie to "Balanced Journalism"

Marty Kaplan's post on the false notion that Journalism with a cap "J" must somehow present two sides on an equal footing really gives this much-maligned point a great argument:

Straight news puts the defensive blather from top executives of Moody's and Standard & Poor's on the same footing as testimony about conflict-of-interest by former officials of those firms at the hearings. Each piece of damning evidence is juxtaposed with a flack's denial. Each incriminating e-mail demonstrating the corruption of the ratings process is laid against the executives' contrary assurances of integrity and high standards. Straight news is stenography: these guys say "day"; these other guys say "night." It's up to you, dear reader, to decide whom to believe.

The trouble with this conception of journalism is that it inherently tilts the playing field in favor of liars, who are expert at gaming this system. It muzzles reporters, forbidding them from crying foul, and requiring them to treat deception with the same respect they give to truth. It equates fairness with evenhandedness, as though journalism were incompatible with judgment. "Straight news" isn't neutral. It's neutered - devoid of assessment, divorced from accountability, floating in a netherworld of pseudo-scientific objectivity that serves no one except the rascals it legitimizes.

However important facts are, no human being can be an "omniscient observer" and will definitely bias his reporting. Look no further than right-wing Fox News' trademark line: "fair and balanced". It's not gonna happen. So for honesty in journalism, one must simply state his opinion, label it as opinion separately, and present facts on both sides. You can't decide without knowing the reporter's bias, so it's only fair and balanced to give that away at the outset.


opit said...

We're not talking about equivalent resources or fair and impartial in any way.
Fox being called 'Faux' is a pun because that sound - in French - is the word for 'False.'
Sometimes the ladies put it together nicely.

Omyma said...

That's exactly the point. Faux "fairness" is faux news, too.

Thanx for the link, btw.